New Car Research

Doesn’t Everyone Use a Spreadsheet to Research a New Car Purchase?

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New Car Research
How to make the right decision when you want to buy a new car.

You see, I’m researching three-row SUVs for my next car (my current Mini Cooper is 14 years-old, and ready to be retired in favor of a more family-functional car).

There is a lot of this style of car available in the marketplace, and the only way I can keep track of all the data so I can pick the exact right car is by using a spreadsheet.

Doesn’t everyone do this?

It’s not even that complicated a spreadsheet. There are 13 columns, one for each of the cars being researched (as I said, there are a lot). Then there are a dozen or so rows, where I track the models, and the trim levels that include the features that are important to me. I’m looking for Apple CarPlay, I’m interested in the cargo volumes behind each row of seats, and whether it has all the newest adaptive cruise control and safety features.

And, very important, what’s the MSRP at the minimum model/trim configuration that gets me all the features I want?

It takes a lot of work to compile all this data. Not every automaker shows everything in a really organized way. But between the automaker websites and the various auto review sites, I’ve filled in all the data.

Next step: analysis!

The way I’m tackling the analysis is with this concept: out of 13 cars, I want to know what the top third are on each of the key metrics (cargo space, MSRP, and so on). I highlight the top four cars in each category, and then I sum up the total “top fours” for each vehicle to see which cars lead the pack overall.

For the record, according to the issues that are important to me, the new Subaru Ascent comes out on top, because of its’ balance of cargo volume, amenities, and price. Indeed, if you want to talk value, it wins both on price/cubic foot and price/cup-holder! I feel like I’m writing a sequel to Moneyball here: let’s call it Moneycar!

Did I mention I’m an engineer?

So, the bottom line is this: I’m a little obsessive about making the right choice, so I fall back on my data analysis skills to help me find confidence in decision making. Seems like a very GeekDad thing to do.

But I’d love to hear from our readers: is this something you’ve done, about cars or other purchases? Tell us your stories in the comments below about going a little overboard picking out a new car, washer/dryer, house, baby name, or whatever else!

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10 thoughts on “Doesn’t Everyone Use a Spreadsheet to Research a New Car Purchase?

  1. Definitely have done this…I use Google sheets so the hubs and i can look and update when we aren’t together. He is 6’4″ so we have a row designated to his physical fit in the various seats.
    We are looking more at the Atlas now.

    1. The Atlas is definitely in my top three or so. Has a distinct look and feel that’s different than many of the others, and checks off a lot of boxes. Final decision will probably come down to what kind of deals are available when I’m ready to take the leap!

  2. LOL my son did something similar to determine what the price should be at each year and at what mileage with specific features, for a used Subaru Impreza. When one came available with Shift, online, at exactly the right price, he grabbed it. Oh did I mention he’s an engineer too?

    1. The correlation between engineers and spreadsheet users should be studied more. I think I’ll start a spreadsheet and look into it! 😉

  3. I guess it depends on the situation you are in. Most of the singles do not use a speadsheet and track their budget.

  4. OMG! I cracked up when I read this. I totally did this for my last car but I had about 30 rows and also included things like expected mpg, insurance, maintenance, gas prices over time, expected repair costs, tires, and more after, 3, 5 and 10 years. Also included options like multiple leases over 10 years and trade in value after 5 and 10 years. The only thing I didn’t research was aftermarket warrantees which may have made the BMW 335d option look better. Ended up with a hybrid Camry (this was in 2102)

    For my wife’s recent car we actually leased an MDX because they had a screamin deal and cars are changing so much right now that I didn’t want to commit to anything for 10 years.

    And yes, I’m an engineer. Well, Product Manager but I have an engineering degree

    1. And the engineer background trend continues! 😉

      That sounds like an amazing spreadsheet! Now you’ve got me thinking about adding a few more things into mine…

  5. Crazy! I’m not an engineer (well, maybe I am being a computer graduate, but not in the traditional sense lol), but my son is a mechanical engineer and he introduced me to this kind of vehicle analysis. First it was to determine whether a Land Rover Discovery V8 are on the long run, cheaper than the Diesel. It turned out to be cheaper indeed. You may feel it more per mile, but the maintenance ater the maintenance plan is much less. Now I’m doing a spreadsheet again… with miles, age, price, trend analysis of miles/price, age/price etc. Let’s see what my next caar will be…

  6. This is exactly what I am starting to do to research SUVs with a 3rd row. However, I didn’t want to recreate the wheel if this already existed. Is there a way to download your spreadsheet from this site?

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